This paper describes the potential of ecological sanitation (ecosan) to provide sustainable excreta disposal in emergency situations and in peri-urban areas or slums in developing countries. At the present time, pit latrines are the most common form of excreta disposal both for emergency situations and in low-income peri-urban areas or slums. Although not intended to be a long-term solution, pit latrines provided during emergencies are often used for a long time (more than six months to years). This practice is not sustainable if the area is prone to flooding or there are soil conditions that allow groundwater pollution in areas where groundwater is used for drinking water, to name but two of the main factors. We propose eight criteria for the applicability of ecosan based on analysis of three case studies representing different types of emergency situations. The two most important criteria are awareness and expertise in ecosan within the aid agencies, and availability of standardised, lightweight toilet units that are quick to assemble and easy to transport (e.g. container for faeces, and urine diversion squatting pan made of impact-resistant molded polypropylene). Such toilets could be moved to, or replicated in, other areas in need after the emergency (peri-urban areas or slums). This would provide benefits for Millennium Development Goals achievements (targets on hunger, child mortality, sanitation and slum dwellers) at lower cost than conventional sanitation systems. Costs for sanitation systems should be compared based on the entire system (toilet, transport, treatment, reuse in agriculture), using Net Present Value analysis for capital, and operating and maintenance costs.

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